Exactly 100 years ago, Albert Einstein grappled with the implications of his revolutionary Special Theory of Relativity and came to a startling conclusion: mass and energy are one, related by the formula E = mc2.
E = mc2 was just one of several extraordinary breakthroughs that Einstein made in 1905, including the completion of his Special Theory of Relativity, his identification of proof that atoms exist, and his explanation of the nature of light, which would win him the Nobel Prize. To honour the centenary of these achievements, 2005 was declared the World Year of Physics.
Among Einstein's ideas, E = mc2 is by far the most famous. Yet how many people know what it really means? In a thought-provoking and engrossing docudrama, Einstein's Big Idea illuminates this deceptively simple formula by unrevealing the story of how it came to be.
Based on David Bodanis's bestselling book E = mc2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation, the program explores the lives of the men and women who helped develop the concepts behind each term in the equation: E for energy; m for mass; c for the speed of light; and 2 for "squared".
Like a multi-plot novel building to a climactic scene, Einstein's Big Idea traces the stories of a fascinating range of characters: Einstein himself, Michael Faraday, Antoine-Laurent de Lavoiser, James C. Maxwell, Émilie du Châtelet, Lise Meitner and Mileva Maric, who was Einstein's first wife.
Genius by genius, idea by idea, the film shows how Einstein's remarkable predecessors provided the intellectual tools for his extraordinary breakthrough and provide a rich reference context in which the audience can set - and understand - this famous equation.